I became an Independent Visitor two years ago with the hope of using my spare time to bring a little fun and stability to a young person’s life. Having had interactions with social services myself as a child, I know how frustrating it can be when you don’t feel you have space to express your voice. This is what attracted me to NYAS: the organisation’s commitment to ensuring children and young people are heard and empowered, even in times of chaos or uncertainty.

The beauty of the Independent Visitor service is that volunteers are exactly that – independent. We are not involved in the young person’s circumstances; we do not know the ins and outs of their history. We are free to see them as the people they are today: individuals with their own unique interests, personalities; likes and dislikes. Equally, they can get to know us as people who have a genuine interest in them and their happiness, without professional obligations or agendas.

While we are independent, we are not alone. Throughout my experience with NYAS I have been given all the information, guidance and support I could have hoped for. The wonderful IV Co-ordinators have always been on hand to help me navigate challenges and celebrate successes as my match and I get to know each other and try new things. I can see how committed they are to ensuring every young person enjoys their time with their Independent Visitor, and ever Independent Visitor feels confident in their ability to have a positive impact.

Since being matched with a young person two years ago, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him gain confidence, take on new challenges, express their opinions, make new friends, integrate into a loving family, and make plans for the future. We’ve shared a lot of laughs, mainly at my expense! My poor performance on the go-kart track and my inability to use Snapchat are particularly amusing to him – as well as the fact I’m 26 which, in his mind, is totally ancient!

Since knowing each other, we’ve both tried many new things and visited new places: I’ve confronted my fear of scary films and he’s experienced the theatre for the very first time. I’ve learned an enormous amount about cars and video games, and he’s resisted all my attempts to convince him that books can be fun! What has struck me most is how his confidence and ability to express what he wants has grown over the years. When we met, small decisions like where to eat left him in a muddle – he would defer to me to choose what we should do and where we should go. He was wonderfully obliging and open to suggestions, but was hesitant to tell me what he wanted.

As we became closer and he began to trust that I genuinely wanted to know what he liked or what new things he’d like to try – and that I’d do my best to make this possible – he began to open up and express his own wishes. Often young people in the care system have decisions made for them and feel like their wants aren’t always taken into account or acted upon, so I hope the Independent Visitor experience has helped him find his voice and express his opinions. As my time with my match comes to an end and he moves on to the next chapter in his story, starting college and pursuing his ambitions, I’m hopeful that he’ll take this increased confidence with him.

The stability and support provided by his family and the new experiences provided by NYAS’ Independent Visitor service has given him the tools he’ll need to tackle new challenges, form positive relationships and find joy in life. It has been a privilege for me to be just a small part of his journey and to see him grow into an enthusiastic, ambitious and optimistic young adult. I’ve learned a huge amount from our time together and am excited to get to know another incredible young person with the unfailing support and kindness of staff and fellow volunteers at NYAS.

Article by L (Wokingham IV)

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